Be a Wanderer: Planning My Trip to Cambodia

Travelling and seeing the world has always been a dream of mine so I was really blessed to finally have the opportunity to wander off without parental supervision. A few of my friends and I decided to go to Cambodia last 2014 and we planned this trip for about a year. So why Cambodia of all places? Mainly due to the majestic Angkor temples that have been growing famous for the past few years. And then there’s the budget friendliness of the place. The accommodation is cheap. The food is cheap. The transportation is cheap. The fees are cheap. It was very apt for a fresh graduate who’s just starting out in the professional world.

Plane Ride

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First things first we had to book our plane tickets to Cambodia. Since we were on a budget we took advantage of Cebu Pacific’s Piso Fare Promo. We removed the food during the ride as we found it unnecessary and it incurred extra charges. Some of my friends even waived the additional weight for the check-in in order to save some cash. But since I don’t pack light I still had to have my additional weight. With our tickets booked there was no turning back.

Accommodation

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We tried to book our accommodations as early as we could since we’re quite a big group consisting of 8 people, we didn’t want to risk the trouble of looking for a place where we could all be together. We booked two rooms at Purple Mangosteen which was located in Pub Street. The location was really convenient we didn’t have troubles looking for a place to eat since a lot of restaurants were walking distance from our place and there were a lot of tuktuks, which was the main transportation system in the area. It really saved time and money staying there. Overall the place was nice and affordable. The staff was friendly and accommodating. They provide free pick up from the airport and since we weren’t able to use that free pick up they were kind enough to switch it to dropping us off on our departure day.

I found Purple Mangosteen using TripAdvisor which has a feature wherein you can input the number of rooms you want for the number of people you need for the date you’re going to use it. It also compares the prices from different third party booking sites and shows you the best deals you can get money-wise. We booked Purple Mangosteen via Bookings.com. We were a bit skeptical at first but have no fear if it’s your first time booking from a third party booking site. Everything went smoothly with Bookings.com.

Activities and Schedule

It’s a good thing we knew what we wanted from this trip which was to see the great Angkor complex. Because of that my research on Cambodia revolved around Siem Reap which was where the Angkor complex was located. Besides the Angkor Temples, I also looked for other sites to see and things to do around Siem Reap. Mind you there are a lot of things that could be done in Siem Reap alone, if you’re up for anything, so if you’re just planning to pass through for a day trip I don’t think it’s enough for the full Cambodian experience. Cambodia has a very rich back story with the Khmer Empire which lasted for a couple of centuries. They also have the Khmer Rouge which was a bloody tragic era in Cambodia. Aside from that there are also a lot of activities that you could do such as quad biking, pottery, food trip, painting, visit a waterfalls, zip lining, hiking, get a massage, cooking classes, watch the Phare Cambodia Circus, attend a concert, and that’s just in Siem Reap alone! You could also take a day trip to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh or relax by the beach at Sihanoukville.

Of course we didn’t do all of the activities I mentioned above since we were only staying for four days. So we narrowed it down to this. Below is a summary of our itinerary for our trip.

Day 0:

  • Arrival Date

Day 1:

  • Phnom Kulen Day Trip
  • Sunset Quad Bike

Day 2:

  • Angkor Park

Day 3 A:

  • Phnom Penh Day Trip

Day 3 B:

  • Oil Painting
  • Angkor National Museum
  • Yoga Class at Peace Cafe

Day 4:

  • Angkor Park (B)
  • Shopping at Old Market
  • Departure Date

As you can see we had two different schedules for Day 3 onward. Our group split up since some of us wanted to go to Phnom Penh to learn more about the Khmer Rouge and some of us wanted to stay in Siem Reap in order to have a more relaxing trip. The Angkor Park was not built for a one day tour. I was fortunate enough to be able to  visit it for a second time since I was part of the group that decided to stay in Siem Reap. I’ll share more about the Angkor Park and our activities in the other entries for Cambodia.

Group Photo with Smarty!
Group Photo with Smarty!

We used different mediums in booking our activities. For our day trip at Phnom Kulen and tour at the Angkor Park we were referred by a friend to Smarty. He’s a tour driver who could also be a tour guide (since he already knows the history very well), a photographer and a friend. He was really nice to us and recommended us to good restaurants. He also has a good sense of humor and has a lot of great stories to tell about Cambodia. Here’s his profile at Tripadvisor which has his contact information: https://www.tripadvisor.com.ph/Attraction_Review-g297390-d7710722-Reviews-Angkor_Smarty_Driver_Day_Tours-Siem_Reap_Siem_Reap_Province.html

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For our Phnom Penh day trip we booked our trip at Mango Cambodia. I can’t say much since I wasn’t part of the group who toured Phnom Penh but from what I heard from them they had a really good time. Here’s the link to their website: http://mangojourneys.com/en/#_=_

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A friend of mine recommended a sunrise quad bike tour but we chose the sunset package because that’s the one that fit our schedule. We booked our quad bike experience via Cambodia Quad Bike.

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One of my friends in the group wanted to try painting so we looked for classes in Siem Reap. We were able to book an oil painting class via Backstreet Academy. They offer a lot of other experiences besides oil painting. Here’s a link to their site so you can explore other possibilities:https://www.backstreetacademy.com/#!siem-reap/cmh3#_=_

My advice on this area is to decide on what you want. If you don’t know it yet, do some research. Look at other blogs and see what awesome things did the other travelers do at a certain place. It also helps to know someone personally who has been there before. And google will be your best friend during the whole planning period.

Packing List and Reminders

In preparing my packing list I relied on Google as well. You need to know the place where you’ll be travelling. Cambodia is a warm country. During our stay there I was mostly wearing a combination of sleeveless shirt, shorts and sandals. I’m use to the tropical weather since I live in Philippines but I still found it a bit warm and humid in Cambodia especially around noon while we were touring the Angkor Park. Take note that when visiting certain temples shorts (in Baphuon Temple) and possibly sleeveless shirts (in Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace) are not allowed so be prepared to cover up. I also read somewhere that there are a lot of insects in the area so I bought some mosquito patches and an insect repellent which were really useful since  mosquitoes have a tendency to feast on me and I can’t stand the itch.

Transportation in Siem Reap is mainly via tuktuk as I’ve mentioned. We paid around $1-$2 per trip from Pub Street to other areas which were around 15-30 minute walking distance. If you’re planning on touring the Angkor Park via tuktuk I suggest to book an airconditioned vehicle instead. As I’ve mentioned it can get extremely warm during noon, you’ll really need a break from the heat.

If you’re planning on biking around the Angkor Park, we didn’t really try this but we were planning on doing it, our overall observation was if you want a leisurely stroll around the park it would be best if you’ve visited the place before. There won’t be any pressure to rush to a certain area since you’ve seen the temples before. I think it’s also preferable to bike during cooler hours, that would be early morning until around 10AM or late afternoon around 3PM or 4PM. But of course all of this is in theory.

We visited Cambodia during the latter part of October 2015. Overall I spent less than Php 30,000 and I wasn’t even being frugal with my spending. Fortunately the rainy season was almost over during our visit and we only had a run in with the rain once during our Day 3 afternoon. There were already a bunch of tourist when we did our Angkor Park tour but that was expected since the temples were the most popular landmarks in Cambodia. There was an even larger group during our second visit which was on a Saturday weekend. But overall the crowd wasn’t that bad and it pays to come to the complex early to experience the temples in their more peaceful state.

 

 

 

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